Elastic Resistance Training for Strength Gains
If I told you that you that you can significantly improve your strength simply by using what essentially are elastic bands would you believe me?Sports scientists, personal trainers, physiotherapists and athletes will tell you that it’s true. The basic principle behind training with elastic resistance is simple, as a person stretches the band, the resistance increases.
What is elastic resistance training (ERT)?
As the name suggests ERT is resistance training performed against the natural resistive property of elastic. The elastic band is attached to a fixed object with the opposite end attached to the person. If you work out at a gym this could mean attaching one end to the upright of any machine, if at home you can improvise with door handles and table legs. The resistance depends on the type of band, there are at least 7 varieties, and how far the band is stretched. A band that is stretched to twice its resting state is considered to be at 100% elongation. The force difference between the two weakest bands at 2x their length is 20%. For the two bands with greatest resistance this force difference becomes 59%. The weakest band provides a force equivalent to 2.3 kg (5 lbs) and the strongest band 16 kg (35 lbs) at 2x their length. This scope ensures that a band is available for all people who wish to train this way.
Why use ERT?
This is simple. A single band can be used to train the whole body. All the major muscle groups can be trained with compound exercises and single muscles can be targeted with isolation exercises. Aside to this, the bands can be used to mimic sport specific movements that take place in many planes a clear advantage over machines and free weights or should I say a clear reason to add them to your machine and free weights workout.
The versatility of ERT training also shines through. Traditional forms of resistance training often rely on gravity to create the resistance due to this factor many of the movements are restricted to the vertical plane. Because of this it is difficult to replicate movements that are specific to life and sport that occur in 3 planes. ERT utilizes the tension in the band therefore negating the need to resist gravity and allow actions that are specific and take place in all 3 planes (frontal, sagittal, and transverse).
All ERT exercises are performed using multiple joint actions and a functional posture. A functional posture is deemed to be one that requires activation of the core muscles to stabilize the torso, in comparison, machines where many actions are performed in a neutral posture like sitting.
When training with free weights it is possible to “cheat” by allowing momentum to contribute to the forceful effort. For example, when people curling a dumb bell that is too heavy for the first half of the exercise the biceps are stimulated, but, the second half only represents the momentum of the weight. ERT exercises eliminate this temptation because momentum has no input.
The most notable advantage of ERT exercise is attributed to the smooth eccentric phase of the actions. The eccentric part, the return to start phase of an exercise, stimulates the muscles in a particular way that enables them to resist gravity. This in turn improves the ability of the body to stand with good posture and not succumb to the downward force of gravity.
Disadvantages of ERT
The elastic bands can become worn and less durable. This can mean that the resistance is diminished therefore compromising he workout. To overcome this predicament the bands can be bought at a cheaper price when purchased in bulk. This way you can cut off the length that you require and store the rest.
It can be difficult to quantify the exact force of resistance. There are charts that aim to provide the force for each of the bands at different lengths but these are estimates only. In my opinion this does not really matter, do I need to know exactly what force I have to overcome? So long as the bands are providing sufficient resistance to stimulate the intended muscles, and I have a general idea of the resistance, I’m happy.
GoFit Brand for Less than $30
The GoFit brand has a low cost set they call the Ultimate ProGYM. It comes with a set of elastic bands and a DVD, perfect for traveling. It comes highly recommended by a doctor/personal training certified online friend.
*Daniel is the author of Home Calisthenics, a blog that aims to help people to train their body using bodyweight and alternative strategies without the need for gym membership.